Unemployment in Britain could soar to 1980s levels with 3.8million on the dole due to the wreckage caused by the coronavirus lockdown.
Labour has warned that ministers need to do more to support struggling businesses as both main parties try to come up with ways to rescue the economy.
Statistics from the House of Commons library show that up to one million people could be added to the current jobless total of 2.8 million. Unemployment in the UK peaked at 3.3 million in 1984.
Boris Johnson today pledges to spend tens of billions of pounds to save the British economy from disaster in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic.
Unemployment in Britain could soar to 1980s levels with 3.8million on the dole due to the wreckage caused by the coronavirus lockdown
In an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday, the Prime Minister promises a building blitz of hospitals, schools, housing developments and ‘shovel-ready’ road and rail infrastructure projects, while an ‘opportunity guarantee’ will aim to save the jobs of workers who have lost out in the employment market.
Signalling a clear break with the policy of austerity imposed by David Cameron in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, Mr Johnson says that he will be ‘doubling down’ on his pledge to ‘level up’ the distribution of wealth across the country.
The Prime Minister will announce details of his plan – which he describes as ‘a very big moment’ – in a set-piece speech on Tuesday, which will be followed-up by an economic statement from Chancellor Rishi Sunak next month.
Johnson will use his speech on Tuesday to announce a taskforce – dubbed ‘Project Speed’, and led by Mr Sunak – to cut down the time it takes to deliver ‘high quality infrastructure’.
Boris Johnson today pledges to spend tens of billions of pounds to save the British economy from disaster in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic
However, Labour says the most urgent need is to protect existing jobs in sectors which still have no date for reopening – including gyms, beauty salons and nightclubs.
In August employers will have to contribute to the furlough scheme which currently covers 80 per cent of wages. This is even if they have not been allowed to reopen.
The scheme will fully come to an end in November which could potentially put many businesses in a very difficult position.
Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband told the Observer: ‘The scale of the economic emergency facing us is enormous. But the government is pulling the rug from under businesses employing one million people by demanding they start bearing the cost of the furlough when they don’t even know when they can reopen.
‘The government’s approach will put jobs, businesses and livelihoods at risk, which will impose costs on us all. Failing to act to protect jobs now will only add to the burdens we face in higher benefit payments, lost tax revenues and a smaller economy,’ said Miliband.
Gordon Brown has also criticised the government’s economic response, accusing it of ‘dither and delay’.
The furlough scheme is funding more than 8 million workers, at an estimated cost of a £14bn a month.
It comes as Britain today announced 100 more coronavirus deaths, in a record-low Saturday total that will cool fears about the latest lockdown-loosening measures.
Today’s figure is down by almost a quarter from last Saturday’s 130 deaths, and marks the lowest Saturday total since March 21, two days before lockdown, when 56 people were killed.
It means the UK’s official Covid-19 death toll now stands at 43,514 — but more grim estimates by the Office for National Statistics put the tally in the region of 55,000 when suspected virus deaths are included.
A total of 890 more people were diagnosed with the viral disease in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of infected to 310,250.
But millions of cases have went missed because of a lack of widespread testing, and the ONS predicts around 3,000 people are still catching Covid every day in England alone.
Meanwhile, holidaymakers will be able to travel abroad for summer holidays next month under a ‘traffic light’ system that ranks countries based on their coronavirus risk, it emerged today.
Britons visiting nations that are ‘green’ or ‘amber’ – which includes most tourist hotspots in Europe, including Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey and France – will not have to self-isolate when they return.
Only those flying to ‘red’ countries – such as the US, Brazil and India, where the virus is still rife – will have to quarantine indoors for 14 days after flying back.